A Week of (Almost) 100% Local Eating

Asparagus, Stinging Nettle, Salami, and German Butterball Potato Quiche-to-Be

The Seven Days 100% Local challenge calls for 100% local eating for the week of April 18th. We’re participating, sorta. In honor of the challenge and Earth Day, I’ll be blogging for the next week about eating local.

Contrarian that I am, I’ll start off with a bit about what what my family does not eat local, as well as what we do. In the coming days, I’ll share a meal plan for the week based on what’s available here in Portland now, information about sourcing affordable local food, and preservation methods that make eating year-round tasty and nutritious.

While I am an advcoate of local eating, I personally don’t follow a 100% local diet and while the 100% local challenge is an interesting one, I know we won’t follow all the rules for next week’s challenge. For my family, eating local is an everyday, year-round practice and in order to keep us all happy, I cook with some select foods from afar. Here are my exceptions and reasoning.

  • Since they can be dried in their place of origin and shipped (rather than flown, like a lot of farflung produce) the carbon footprint of spices is relatively low. Considering how much variety and interest they add to the diet, as well as their medicinal qualities, I have chosen not to exclude them from my diet or this menu plan. I buy whole, fair trade, organic spices in bulk and I grind them as I need them.
  • I make my own vanilla extract with organic vanilla beans and organic grape neutral spirits from Alchemical Solutions.
  • I have been waiting for someone to start producing Oregon Coast Salt, but in the meantime, I use Celtic Sea Salt, which I buy in bulk and grind by hand at home.
  • Lemon and lime juice are in some of my canned goods and recipes. I buy Santa Cruz Organic juices in bulk. I also make preserved lemons when Meyer lemons are in season in California. While I use a lot of fermented fruits and vegetables to provide a tangy zip in most of our meals, lemons and limes are essential  in some dishes.
  • I use cheese making cultures (from New England Cheesemaking Co.), baking soda, and other products (wine, vinegar, salami) that may have yeasts, bacteria, enzymes, and preservatives from far away. Incredibly small amounts of these additives make homemade cheese, baked goods, bacon, and preserves possible in our everyday life.
  • My family is on a grain-free diet, which actually makes it easier in some ways to eat local, as most of our meals are just meat or eggs and vegetables. One big exception to buying local is almond flour, which I use for baking. I buy it in bulk from Honeyville in California.
  • We buy Marine Stewardship Certified Alaskan halibut and salmon. These fisheries are well-managed and still strong.
  • We also eat coconut (milk, butter, oil) and I drink locally roasted fair trade, organic coffee. I make my own honey-sweetened chocolate.
  • During the winter, I buy oranges, mangoes, and bananas for my kids. I torture them enough with restricting grains, sugar, and processed foods (which are basically grains + sugar + chemicals). This is my mother-guilt compromise. At least I can say that citrus is naturally at its peak in winter.
  • Lastly, we do indulge in off-season fresh produce occasionally, particularly when I have a cold and want to make some Tom Kah with snow peas in mid-April. I make no claims of purity or perfection in any aspect of my life, but I do constantly strive to find ways to improve on what I’m doing.

The local foods we eat:

  • Local meat and seafood, including beef, pork, lamb, goat, chicken, rabbit, turkey, duck, goose, tuna, crabs, salmon, trout, and shrimp. I the land animals are pastured, the seafood wild-caught. Like with everything, I make the most of the animal food we buy, making bone broths and rendering fats.
  • Local milk (cow and goat), cream and butter, from which I make yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, creme fraiche, ghee, chevre, feta, cottage cheese, paneer, and mozzarella, though lately we haven’t been using much dairy at all.
  • Chicken and duck eggs from our backyard birds or local farms when our girls’ production is low.
  • Local fruits and vegetables frozen, dehydrated, jammed, pickled, sauced, fermented and juiced at home. We grow some ourselves, but most comes from local farms.
  • Local nuts hazelnuts and walnuts.
  • Local honey.
  • Herbs that we grow ourselves or buy from local farms.

That’s a lot of foods! I couldn’t say for sure how much of our diet is local on a weekly basis, but I’d guess about 75-80% of our calories come from within 100 miles. Many of the farms I buy from are less than 30 miles from our home. Oregon’s awesome that way

While I’d like to get even more local foods into our diet, I’m pretty satisfied with where we’re at at this point. Considering that less than 10% of American meals are made from local foods, getting to even 50% of calories from within 100 miles would be a huge breakthrough. So, rather than encourage you to eat 100% local and then give up in frustration or culinary boredom, I’d like you to see what local eating can look like in my next post about a week of local-based meals, and learn how to get your own affordable, local food, which I’ll cover in subsequent posts.

Asparagus Babies

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Sweet Success with Sauerkraut

You know all about the health benefits of lactofermented foods like sauerkraut–how it aids digestion, replenishes essential gut flora, boosts the immune system–but maybe you’re nervous about leaving food out on the counter for several days or maybe you’ve tried making sauerkraut or pickles before and not gotten the results you expected. In my classes and on various email lists, I frequently hear tales of sauerkraut woe. Moldy, soggy, stinky (in the wrong way), sad kraut. The thing is, I’ve been making it for years and even early on, I’ve never had a kraut go wrong. I doubt I’m some sort of mad kraut genius, but I have a feeling that there is something about the combination of ingredients and method I use that’s making a difference. I’m not sure which of these are key, but here are some possible reasons for my kraut success:

  • I always add seeds in my kraut. Usually juniper berries and caraway, but sometimes celery seeds, cumin, or dill seed seeds. Seeds contain enzymes that protect the kraut from putrefying microorganisms. According to Wild Fermentation author Sandor Katz (who is a mad kraut genius), you can even make a low-salt kraut with lots of seeds.
  • I also always add fresh minced ginger. Ginger makes the kraut extra refreshing, but it also has anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties and has traditionally been used to help preserve foods.
  • One key to good ferments is having plenty of liquid on top. The salty brine provides a barrier to putrefying bacteria. Keep the baddies out by pressing down hard when packing the kraut into a jar or crock, which forces the expressed water to the top. The cabbage will reabsorb this salty brine during the fermentation. Pressing the kraut during the initial fermentation period can get enough liquid to rise to the top again, but if not, add salted water to cover (1 tablespoon dissolved in a pint of water).
  • I cover my kraut with a lid to keep out airborne molds and yeast. I’ve read suggestions to only cover the kraut with a cheesecloth or a towel during fermentation, but that strikes me as an invitation to bad guys. The explanation for this practice, I understand, is to allow the ferment to expel gases. So, when fermenting in a glass jar, I cover the jar with a loosely tightened lid, or when fermenting in crocks, I cover the crock with a plate. Gases can still escape, but the ferment is less vulnerable to intruders.
  • I ferment on the counter in my kitchen, which is typically 65F to 68F, and check on my kraut’s progress daily. In summer, when my kitchen is warmer, I keep a closer eye on things and do the counter-top ferment for three days instead of four.

With all that in mind, here’s how I recently began a large batch of sauerkraut.

Kraut Set Up

  • When preparing a small batch of sauerkraut I pack it in a half-gallon canning jar, but here I’m making a 3 gallon batch, so I pulled out one of my Pacific Stoneware crocks (made in Portland, probably in the 1940s).
  • For the initial mixing and pounding, I find it easier to work in a vessel that’s even larger than my fermentation vessel, so that’s why I’ve also got my 18-quart stainless steel stock pot. Its flat bottom makes it easier to pound the kraut. Bowls can be harder to work in. By the way, while I am mixing and pounding the cabbage in stainless, don’t ferment in stainless steel (acids can etch it over time)–only glass or stoneware. Some folks ferment in plastic, but I would suggest not doing that as even food grade plastic can leach when in contact with acidic food.
  • The wooden tool there is a kraut pounder, which is handy for pressing kraut, but as you’ll see in a bit, also for grinding spices.
  • I’ve weighed the cabbage and measured my ingredients according to how much cabbage I have.
  • While a cabbage shredder might be handy, I make do without one but I do sharpen my chef’s knife before getting started. I’ve used my food processor on occasion, but I find that since I have to chop the cabbage into chunks that are small enough for the feeder tube anyway that it’s actually more efficient to chop by hand. But that’s me.
  • Another indispensable tool in my kitchen is my Microplane. I use it to mince ginger here, but it comes out daily to mince garlic, grate hard cheeses and spices like nutmeg. It makes such short work of mincing even a big chunk of ginger that again, it’s not worth pulling out and washing my food processor. Poor neglected food processor.

Sauerkraut
Makes about 3 gallons

3 tablespoons juniper berries
3 tablespoons finely minced ginger
3 tablespoons chopped baby dill
3 tablespoons caraway seeds
9 tablespoons sea salt
15 pounds green cabbage

Using a mortar and pestle (or, in this case, mortar and short end of a kraut pounder), lightly crush the juniper berries.

Yes, you too can get your very own from krautpounder.com

Chop the cabbage as coarsely or finely as you like. I like some big pieces in mine.

Place half of one chopped cabbage in a large, flat bottomed vessel. Sprinkle 1-1/2 teaspoons each of juniper berries, caraway, ginger, and dill and a scant tablespoon of salt over the cabbage. You could also mix the seeds, ginger, dill and salt together and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the mixture over each layer.

Using a kraut pounder, the end of a rolling dowel, your fist, a meat tenderizer, a mug, or some other flat object, press and pound on the cabbage for a minute.

Repeat with each cabbage half. By the time you are finished, there should be an accumulation of brine in the kraut-to-be.

Brine pooling in kraut

You can walk away for an hour or so while more brine accumulates, or you can start packing the cabbage into your fermenting vessel now. Press down hard as you pack layers of cabbage into a jar or crock. To keep the cabbage covered with brine, weigh it with something that just fits inside your vessel. Short, narrow-mouth half-pint jam jars fit well inside wide-mouth canning jars or find a plate or bowl to nestle inside your crock. Fill the jar or bowl with water as needed to keep it from floating. Below, I have put a shallow bowl inside the crock and let the brine partially fill the bowl, though I may pour that back into the crock as the cabbage re-absorbed the brine.

Kraut in crock, weighted with wide bowl

Cover the crock with a plate (if you’re lucky enough to have a crock that still has its lid, use that of course) or loosely tighten a lid on the jar if that’s what you’re using.

This time of year, I let sauerkraut ferment on my counter for four days, checking it daily to see that the cabbage is still covered with brine. I then place the fermented cabbage in canning jars, again pressing it well as I pack it, and store the jars in the fridge. Kraut continues to ferment in the fridge and develops more complex flavors over time. I like to let mine sit for a couple weeks in the fridge. Some folks swear kraut isn’t worth eating ’til it’s at least six months old. It will keep for months and I’ve even experimentally left jars in my fridge for over a year to find still crunchy, delicious kraut.

As you finish a jar, be sure to get a new one started. Once you’ve gotten used to having homemade kraut around, you won’t want to be without it!

Some ways to use your kraut:

  • Heat up some broth, add some cooked meat or an egg yolk, remove from heat and add some kraut. Even better, make lactofermented borscht.
  • Saute some onions, add peeled apple chunks, sauerkraut, and sausages (bratwurst, weisswurst, Polish or Hungarian sausages are our faves). Cover and steam for a few minutes, ’til everything’s warmed through.
  • Add to soup. Practically any soup is improved with sauerkraut, except those improved with kimchi or preserved lemons. Okay, even those taste good mit kraut.
  • As a part of your healthy breakfast.
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My Elaborate Breakfast with Perfect Pre-cooked Pork Patties

I posted recently on my other blog about the new breakfast-in-a-muffin I’ve been experimenting with in an effort to reign in my usual lengthy breakfast prep routine. Well, the muffins are great, but I still like my morning routine, especially now that the weather’s so fine and the garden is starting to produce some of my favorite breakfast veggies. I wanted to show you around my garden a bit, entice you to try a big breakfast yourself, and also tell you about one of my tricks to make this elaborate breakfast a wee simpler to prepare.

Overwintered kale, starting to make delicious flowers. Kale rabe!

Kale, especially the tender young leaves and flower buds, is one of my favorites to saute with onions in the morning, but my very favorite, wait-for-it-all-year-and-gorge-throughout-the-season vegetable is asparagus. Looks like we’ll be eating that within a week.

Chubby asapargus babies. Aren't they cute? Couldn't you just eat them up??

I cut a few leaves and flower buds and head back inside.

Kale leaves and buds

Before I stepped out to get kale and admire the asparagus, I began gently reheating some pre-cooked pork patties and frying onions on the stove. I add the chopped kale to the onions and cook them for a few minutes, just long enough to soften the stems and bring out their color.

Pork patties, kale & onions

I found a couple eggs.

Duck egg, chicken egg

Fried them up in a bit of ghee and sprinkled them with a bit of Old Bay and sea salt.

Perfect little cast iron pan for frying eggs. Notice the big yolk on the duck egg?

And breakfast is served. With breakfast like this, I’m full, but not stuffed, and don’t get hungry again until 2 or 3 o’clock. Skipping lunch has become my new norm.

Pork patty, kale & onions, over easy eggs, and sauerkraut.

Without taking pictures, this nutritious breakfast takes me just minutes to make, thanks to the pork patties, which I make and cook in 10 pound batches. I love this recipe, made with plenty of sage and rosemary from our backyard and enough pepper to give them a bit of zing, yet not so much that the kids can’t enjoy them. I call these “perfect” because it took me several batches to get them just right. I hope you’ll try them and enjoy them as much as we do.

Luc with about half of the 10 pouds of pork patties we prepared together. I use my KitchenAid to mix the meat and seasonings.

Perfect Pre-cooked Pork Patties
Yields about 50 patties

2 12-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary or 3 teaspoon dry rosemary
8 tops–a good handful–of fresh sage or 3 tablespoons dry sage
3 tablespoons fennel seed, ground
3 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
10 pounds ground pork

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Finely chop the rosemary and sage with a knife or in a food processor. Mix thoroughly with remaining seasonings. You should have approximately 1 cup altogether. Divide the herb mixture into four equal portions, about 1/4 cup each. Put 2-1/2 pounds of sausage in the bowl of a stand mixer, add one portion of herb mixture, and turn the mixer on low until the meat and herbs are thoroughly mixed. Remove meat and set aside in an extra large bowl. Repeat with the remaining meat and herb mixture.

Form patties using about 3-4 ounces of meat in each. Keep them all about the same size so they cook evenly. Place them close together on baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, until just brown. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Refrigerate or freeze and reheat as needed.

Luc flippin' burgers, I mean patties.

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Kimchi: The Prettiest Ferment

Don’t you agree?

Pretty Kimchi

I’ve seen some pretty complicated kimchi recipes out there. First you have to brine the cabbage. Then you brine, separately, the daikon. Then you pour off the brine, reserving it, and then…

Maybe in their own painstaking way, those methods are more auténtico than mine. I don’t bury mine in the backyard, either, by the way. Nevertheless, it’s good. Spicy, sour, and slightly sweet, in our home it accompanies fried eggs and baby bok choy sautéed with onions, plum sauce glazed roast duck, or ginger-carrot soup with shrimp.

I eat a bit of kimchi almost everyday (on days when I don’t, I eat sauerkraut instead) and for the past few days, I’d been eying our last quart nervously, knowing I needed to get another jar put up soon so it would be ready in time. I like mine to ferment at room temperature for a few days and then finish up in the fridge for another couple weeks. So, it was time to get on it!

Traditionally in Korea, kimchi varied with the seasons. In the spring, summer, and fall, lightly fermented vegetables such as radish and cucumbers were prepared and consumed quickly. In November, households gathered together to prepare large batches of winter kimchi or kimjang, slicing and salting vegetables, packing them into earthenware jars, and burying the jars neck-deep in the ground. There, the vegetables would ferment and be kept safe from freezing, while providing nourishment until fresh greens were available again in spring.

Traditional kimchi jars

Like so many traditional foods, everyone who makes it has his or her own special recipe for kimchi. This is the kimchi I make from fall through spring. It’s rather pretty packed in glass jars and full of locally grown ingredients (the cabbage and bok choy get scarce around here in the depths of winter, but everything else is local). When mandarin oranges are in season, I like to add those. I encourage you to play around and add what you like to your kimchi.

I don’t particularly recommend the fish sauce I have pictured below. I happened to run out just before a recent lactofermentation class and didn’t have time before class to get to our local Asian market, so I picked up this bottle at a grocery store. It just doesn’t have much fish flavor and I’m glad I’m nearly out of it. If you have a Korean or Asian specialty market nearby, see if you can find jeotgal, Korean fish sauce. Otherwise, the Vietnamese brand Three Crabs is a good one. You may notice that my recipe doesn’t include green onions, while many kimchi recipes do call for them. I just don’t like the taste of fermented onions, personally. If you do, by all means, include them.

Start with these ingredients, you must.

When I was first figuring out kimchi for myself, I came across this Ultimate Kimchi recipe. What liked especially is Eric’s advice about mindset.

As you wash the vegetables, focus on your inner cooking. As you prepare the food, prepare your mind. Recognize that the way you prepare this meal is the way you are preparing your life. Put your total energy and attention into it. Clean your mind of all surface troubles and tribulations, all worries and fears. Focus on this exact moment in time. Observe the colors and textures of the vegetables. Feel them in your hand. Relax. Connect with your purpose and with the purpose of those who will be eating this food. Recognize that you are preparing totally healthy, life-giving fuel. Feel the love that you are demonstrating for yourself and for others as you perform this important service. Smile inside. This is going to be great! Its going to taste awesome!

Focus. Relax. Smile inside. Feel the love. Let’s make some kimchi!

Kimchi
Makes about 2 quarts

1 Napa cabbage
1 bok choy
1 daikon radish
1 very large carrot or a couple not so large carrots
1 green apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup fish sauce or jeotgal (Korean fish sauce) if you can find it
0-4 tablespoons Korean chili flakes (I used add a pinch, but now do about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons grated garlic
1 teaspoon honey
a tablespoon or so of sesame seeds

Prepare the vegetables: Cut the cabbage into lengthwise quarters.

Napa cabbage quartered lengthwise

Slice the cabbage into 1-inch widths.

Cabbage cut into 1-inch widths

Slice the bok choy into 1-inch widths.

Bok choy cut into 1-inch widths

Thinly slice carrot and daikon.

Carrot and daikon sliced into circles with mandoline

Put all the vegetables and apple in a large bowl.

Vegetables and apples in a large bowl

Prepare the paste: Grate the ginger and garlic.

Ginger and garlic, grated with microplane

Put ginger, garlic, salt, fish sauce, chili, and honey in a bowl and mix until it forms a paste.

Kimchi paste ingredients

Add the paste to the vegetables and gently massage it in, mixing the vegetables thoroughly.

Kimchi paste with vegetables

Notice that the vegetables begin to glisten as the salt draws water from them.

Mixed and massaged kimchi

At this point, I walk away for an hour or so, leaving the salt to draw water from the vegetables and create a brine.

Liquid drawn from vegetables after about an hour

Pack the kimchi into glass jars or a ceramic crock. Press down hard on the vegetables, they need to be tightly packed to ferment properly.

Pressing the kimchi with a kraut pounder

Leave at least 2-inch of head space and cover the vegetables with brine. Cover with a lid. I prefer to use plastic one-piece lids or reusable plastic-and-rubber-ring lids with metal rings. Regular metal canning lids contain BPA and they also tend to rust when in contact with acidic ferments.

Place the jars on a tray to capture any liquid that may overflow during the initial fermentation. Leave out on the counter for 3-4 days, then refrigerate. I like kimchi best after about two weeks of refrigeration. Keeps forever and gets milder with age.

Shared at: Monday Mania, Grain-Free Tuesdays

 

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Newsletter and Class Schedule Online

My spring newsletter is online. If you don’t already subscribe, you can sign up to receive it here.

Also, check out the spring class schedule (lots and lots of revisions on that one. I completely spaced Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in my original schedule).

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Preserving Salmon Three Ways

Growing up in Maryland, I didn’t eat much salmon; we were white fish and blue crab people. I’ve been slowly learning, with help from my husband the fisherman, about when the different salmon runs happen here in Oregon and up in Alaska, how to cut up whole fish, and how to cook and preserve them. I still confuse king and chinook, silver and coho*, and could use more practice with a fillet knife, but I daresay I’m getting the preserving bit down.

Smoking

Last summer, members of our buying club bought shares in a salmon CSF (community supported fishery) from Iliamna Seafood Co. Each share included 22 pounds of sockeye salmon fillets. Sockeye assertively flavored and the second oiliest of the salmon (king/chinook is the oiliest), making it an excellent fish for smoking, which is just what we did.

Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

Smoking is a preservation technique used for centuries by people living in cold and damp climates such as northern Europe and the Pacific Northwest, where drying alone would be less effective. For the purpose of preservation, fish would be smoked until it was quite dry, preventing the growth of moisture-dependent spoilers. These days, we’re smoking for the flavor imparted by volatiles in the wood, so we cold smoke, keeping the temperature inside the smoker below 100F, and removing the fish before it loses much moisture. Cold smoked meats will not keep at room temperature and must be refrigerated. Well wrapped, this smoked salmon should keep for 7-10 days in the fridge. It can be frozen as well.

My favorite way to serve this is mixed with about equal amount of homemade cream cheese and schmeered on a bagel, but since I’m not doing bagels at the moment (sad sad me), straight up with a spoon works, too.

I adapted this recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. His calls for sugar, but we’re avoiding all sweeteners except honey these days too (yeah, no bagels and no maple syrup…sad sad moi), so that’s what I’ve used. I’ve also tripled his recipe, making enough for friends and members of our buying club.

Ingredients for Smoke Salmon Cure: Honey, sea salt, juniper berries, cloves, saltpeter, mace, white pepper, bay leaves

Honey-Cured Smoked Sockeye Salmon
Yields approximately three pounds

1 cup honey
1 cup sea salt
1 tablespoon pink salt
1 tablespoon cloves, ground
1 tablespoon juniper berries, ground
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground mace
2 teaspoons ground bay leaves
1 cup filtered (or boiled and cooled) water
3 sockeye salmon fillets, each about 1-1/2 pounds

Mix the honey, sea salt, pink salt, cloves, juniper berries, pepper, mace, bay leaves, and water and stir until salt is dissolved.

Cure the salmon in a flat-bottomed, non-reactive pan that’s just large enough to snugly contain the fillets. I’m using a 9-by-13-inch glass casserole dish.

Sockeye Salmon in Cure

Pour 1 cup of cure into bottom of curing vessel. Lay the two smaller fillets skin-side down on the cure and pour another cup of cure over the fillets. Lay the third fillet skin-side down between the bottom two fillets and pour the last cup of cure over the salmon.

Cover the fish with a piece of wax paper, then weigh it down with a dish or a water-filled zip-top bag. Refrigerate for 36 hours.

Rinse the fillets well, pat dry and set on a rack. Allow to air-dry in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. Set up smoker for a cold smoke and smoke for about 4 hours.

Salt Curing

As someone who once had a 20 year bagel and cream cheese breakfast habit, it should come as no surprise that my first foray into preserving salmon was lox. Gravlax means “buried salmon” in the languages spoken throughout Scandinavia. Fisherman used to lightly salt salmon then bury it for a time, allowing it to ferment.

Making it at home requires no special equipment or ingredients. You won’t even have to dig a hole in your backyard. I used king salmon in this preparation, though any salmon should do. Notice the difference between the color of the sockeye above and the king below?

Gravlax Ingredients: honey, sea salt, bulb fennel, King salmon, juniper berries, peppercorns. What did I forget?

Fennel & Honey-Cured Gravlax (adapted from Charcuterie)
Yields approximately three pounds

1/2 cup dill seeds
2 tablespoons peppercorns
2 tablespoons juniper berries
1 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses (optional)
1 cup sea salt
1 cup filtered (or boiled and cooled) water
4 pounds salmon fillet, no thicker than 1-1/2 inches, skin on, pinbones removed
1 fennel bulb, with stalks and leaves, thinly sliced

Toast the dill, peppercorns, and juniper berries over medium-high heat in a dry pan.

Toasting

Allow the spices to cool and then crack with mortal and pestle or process briefly in a mill.

Mix spices with honey, molasses (if using), salt, and water, stirring until salt is dissolved. Pour 1 cup of cure into bottom of curing vessel. Lay the salmon fillets skin-side down on the cure and pour remaining cure over the salmon.

Salmon in cure

Cover the salmon with sliced fennel, then fennel leaves.

King salmon covered with cure, fennel bulb, and fennel leaves.

Cover the fish tightly with a piece of wax paper. Place a dish or water-filled zip-top bag on top of the salmon. Cure at 40-50F for 24 hours (fridge is fine for this, but if the weather’s cool enough, I put it in a protected area outside), then turn the fish skin-side-up, replace the weight, and cure for another 24 hours. Fish is fully cured when it is uniformly firm to the touch. If there are still some mushy spots, return the fish to the brine and cure for another 12 hours or so and check it again.

Remove from the brine, rinse thoroughly and wipe off the seeds. Pat dry, wrap tightly in wax paper or a piece of plastic, then store in the fridge. Should keep for a week.

Pickling

I tasted pickled salmon for the first time at last fall’s fermentation festival here in Portland and obsessed about it for days until I made my own batch. It has an incredibly clean, fresh flavor. Serve it with a simple green salad or lightly dressed new potatoes. Or just enjoy it as a snack.

I made this batch with the king salmon, but I liked it better with the sockeye, which has firmer flesh.

King Salmon & Fennel

Fermented Salmon (adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

1 cup filtered water
1/4 cup juice from preserved lemons or 1/4 cup of whey
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 pound salmon fillet, skinned and cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 preserved lemon
1 bunch freshly snipped fennel
2 bay leaves
8 crushed juniper berries
8 crushed black peppercorns

Stir the water, lemon juice, salt, and honey the salt is dissolved.

Ingredients for Pickled Salmon: preserved lemons, salmon and fennel, juniper berries, peppercorns, salt, honey, water

Pack the fish, preserved lemon, fennel, bay leaves, juniper berries, and peppercorns into a clean quart sized jar. Pour the liquid mixture over the top of the fish, being sure the fish is completely submerged in liquid. Add more water to cover if necessary. Be sure there is at least an inch of headspace at the top of the jar because fermented foods will bubble.

Cover the jar tightly and keep it at room temperature for 24 hours before putting it in the refrigerator. The fish will keep for 2 weeks.

Clockwise from left: gravlax, smoked salmon, pickled salmon.

The results are so worth the effort, and yes, like the book says, Better Than Store Bought.

*That’s a joke. King = chinook, silver=coho.

Shared at: Fight Back Friday

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In Not-So-Patient Anticipation

Last night, I picked up my first medicinal herb share. Making medicine is new for me and I’m excited to get fresh, locally grown herbs from Taryn and Michelle at Myriad Growers and start making tinctures, salves, liniments, and teas. Honestly, though, while the horseradish, chickweed, sweet flag, and dandelion all present interesting possibilities, both as medicine and food,  I was most excited about the nettles in my share. I’ve been craving them for a couple weeks now, but haven’t had time to scout them out. We have a bit of Mike’s smoked salmon and home made cream cheese and for a week now, I’ve been obsessing about making this stinging nettle cheese cake, using almond flour in place of the bread crumbs for a grain-free base.

Oh, and thinking of salmon I’m reminded that the Columbia River Chinook run begins right about now. And halibut season is underway up in Alaska. Time to pick up fish frames and make some stock.

Pausing my revere for a snack, I notice that the jar of gingered peach leather is almost empty. Peach season is at least five months off. Distressed and wondering what I’ll do without my “grown up” fruit leather, I soothe myself thinking about another spring favorite, gingered-rhubarb and pear crisp, and suddenly realize that I could easily make enough gingered rhubarb leather to last me ’til August. Phew!

And soon, but never soon enough, the asparagus spears will start poking up through the soil and I can make this.

Asparagus-Nettle Quiche-To-Be

One of the less tangible benefits of eating locally and with the seasons is the joyful anticipation that comes with awaiting one’s loves. And at least with vegetables, there’s no one to get jealous about your multiple affections. Nettles, asparagus, rhubarb, I’ve been waiting for you, all of you.

What are your favorite foods of spring?

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